Saturday, July 31, 2010

Opaeula Watershed Project -- Patrick Rorie

From the Oahu Hiking Enthusiasts Archives
Date: Mon, 22 Jan 2001 14:08:41 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie (
Subject: Recent Ko'olau Summit Trail History

Ko'olau Summit Trail History

== 'Opa'eula Watershed Project (2000-2001)

On 20 January 2001 Patrick Rorie (HTMC President) and Stuart Ball (hiking author and a former HTMC President, pictured at left with wife Lynne) were flown with Joby Rohrer (biologist, U.S. Army Environmental Division) via helicopter to the 'Opa'eula Watershed Project, a newly established rain forest preserve located between Pe'ahinai'a Trail and the leeward slopes opposite the headwaters of Kaluanui Stream. The purpose of the trip was simple: establish specific instructions regarding how the fencers should proceed as they install a four foot tall fence along the historic Ko'olau Summit Trail to keep feral pigs from entering the preserve.

The chopper took off from the Army's East Range a short distance mauka of California Avenue in Wahiawa. As it neared the Ko'olau summit, the pilot carefully maneuvered through fog until he identified the designated landing spot. The helicopter touched down just long enough to allow the three men to exit the craft then lifted off into the clouds. The change in climate was substantial - from warm Schofield East Range to the chilly, foggy, and rainy Ko'olau summit. After putting on rain gear and speaking with one of the fencers, the trio headed east on foot over the skirt of an already completed section of the fence toward the crest and a rendezvous with the Ko'olau Summit Trail.

Once at the Summit Trail, the threesome halted, Rohrer to remove a notebook from his rain coat for note-taking, Rorie and Ball to envision how the fence and trail could coexist. While they walked the trail, Rohrer pointed out a couple of native tree snails and a rare native plant. At the end of the roughly one third of a mile segment that would be most impacted by the fence, Rohrer, Rorie and Ball sat down to have lunch and to summarize the new guidelines:

  1. in general, keep the fence to the leeward side of the trail thus allowing an unobstructed windward vista
  2.  keep crossings via wooden stiles to a minimum
  3. although more difficult and expensive to do, create as many corners as possible to protect the integrity of the trail
  4. when given the choice between the easy way and the hard way, choose the more difficult option

After consuming the midday meal, Rorie and Ball bid farewell to Rohrer (later, a chopper plucked the Army biologist from the Ko'olau summit) then they continued tramping south at a leisurely pace. The two men enjoyed gazing at the native flora (clusters of crimson 'ohi'a lehua flowers, tall loulu palms, lapalapa trees) and paused briefly at a waterfall notch and at the landing zone near the Pe'ahinai'a Trail terminus to get an idea of exactly where the fence would be positioned.

Upon arriving at the Poamoho Trail terminus, they inspected the recently reinstalled Cline Memorial plaque (pictured at left) then climbed a small grassy hump and sat down for a quick bite to eat. Pressing on, Rorie and Ball remained on the Summit Trail and stopped again at the fairly new Poamoho Cabin to check its condition. While on the porch, the two men recognized three 'apapane flying through the air or perched on an 'ohi'a limb and delighted in the distinct calls the birds produced. Leaving the Poamoho Cabin behind, Rorie and Ball gained pleasure from the wonderful shelf-like windward sections of the Ko'olau Summit Trail dug out of the sheer pali, but the normally spectacular views of Punalu'u and Kahana valleys directly below were nonexistent due to a thick fog.

At about 3 p.m., Rorie and Ball reached the Pauao Ridge/Summit Trail junction, and following another break to hydrate, commenced the final leg of the day. During the methodical descent along the ungraded Pauao Ridge Trail, they endured a periodic drizzle, identified additional native plants/birds and enjoyed viewing the manner in which the low cloud ceiling engulfed the Ko'olau summit. Eventually, the two men ended up at the Kahana watertank at 5:30 p.m. and walked out via a paved road to the locked gate mauka of a small cluster of houses.